Few shirt numbers are as revered as the number nine, often bestowed upon the player tasked chiefly with providing his side’s most regular route to goal.
Throughout the Premier League years, we have seen some iconic figures wear the number nine, though Arsenal are one club that have had a mixed record when it comes to centre-forwards.
We’ve decided to look back at every player to have worn the shirt for Arsenal Football Club in the modern era, here are our ratings of every Gunners number nine in Premier League history:
Kevin Campbell came through the academy ranks at Arsenal and forged a successful career for the Gunners pre-Premier League, establishing himself in the side during their run to the league title in 1991.
Despite the signing of Ian Wright, Campbell remained a regular in the team during the early years of the rebranded Premier League and played a prominent role as Arsenal became the first side in English football history to win a domestic cup double during the 1992/93 campaign.
Cup Winners’ Cup success followed the following season as Campbell hit 19 goals in all competitions, before competition from new signings Dennis Bergkamp and John Hartson prompted an exit to Nottingham Forest in the mid-nineties.
He scored 22 goals in 97 Premier League appearances for Arsenal before his departure, later having spells at the likes of Everton and West Brom.
Alan Smith enjoyed a fine career at Arsenal, twice winning the league title and becoming a two-time winner of the Golden Boot.
The peak of his career came well before the arrival of the Premier League, however, with Smith managing just eight league goals across three seasons in the rebranded division.
Two of those campaigns came with Smith adorning the number nine, though the former favourite was past his best.
Smith’s departure and the arrival of Dennis Bergkamp saw Paul Merson change his number 10 shirt for the number nine ahead of the 1995/96 season, the ‘Magic Man’ remaining a key part of the Arsenal side during the mid-nineties.
Merson had become a huge fans’ favourite since coming through the academy ranks and helped the club to two league titles pre-Premier League, before playing a vital role in the Gunners’ cup successes of the early nineties.
The attacking midfielder was an unconventional wearer of the number nine, Merson making 160 appearances for Arsenal during the Premier League era and scoring 28 goals, though he wore the number nine for just two of those campaigns.
After 423 appearances for the club in all competitions, he was surprisingly sold to relegated Middlesbrough in 1997, dropping down a division following a lucrative contract offer from the North East outfit.
Merson’s replacement as Arsenal’s number nine was an unproven teenage talent from France, one who would go on to become one of Arsene Wenger’s shrewdest signings in north London.
Anelka arrived as a raw but promising young talent from Paris Saint-Germain and wasted little time in making an impression in the Premier League, scoring nine goals in all competitions – including one in the FA Cup final – as Arsenal won a domestic double during his first full season.
The following year saw the youngster burst into life to establish himself as one of the most exciting talents in world football, scoring 17 league goals to finish as runner-up for the Golden Boot and win the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
Anelka was box-office at his brilliant best and combined electric pace with strength and skill, though his time at Arsenal proved short-lived as he left in acrimonious circumstances for Real Madrid at the end of that breakthrough campaign, becoming the Spanish giant’s £22.3m record signing in 2000.
Heading in the opposite direction following Anelka’s move to Real Madrid was Davor Suker, a player who had starred for Croatia after finishing as the leading scorer at the 1998 World Cup.
Suker arrived with a huge reputation but he struggled to make his mark in the Premier League, struggling for regular opportunities amid competition for places from Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Kanu.
He scored a respectable 10 goals in just 15 starts in all competitions but lasted just a single season in north London, enduring an underwhelming spell at West Ham following his departure from Arsenal.
Before a certain Wayne Rooney there was another young Everton starlet making a name for himself, the quintessential ‘fox in the box’ that was Francis Jeffers.
Jeffers performances on Merseyside prompted Arsenal to splash £8m on the young forward, though he found it difficult to make an impact and struggled with injuries, scoring just four league goals for the club.
The youngster did coincidentally make his England debut in the same fixture as a teenage Rooney and outshone his fellow Scouser with a goal against Australia, though that was the last we saw of Jeffers at international level as his career failed to fulfil its early promise.
Jose Antonio Reyes
Jose Antonio Reyes became Arsenal’s record signing upon arriving from Sevilla in 2004, joining mid-way through the club’s legendary ‘Invincibles’ campaign as the Gunners were crowned as Premier League champions in historic style.
The following season saw the Spaniard start in blistering style as he scored in each of the club’s first six league fixtures and whilst he starred on occasion, the forward struggled for consistency on a regular basis.
Reyes scored 16 goals in 69 appearances and lifted the FA Cup in addition to that league title success, before returning to Spain with Real Madrid amid reports of homesickness.
The man christened ‘The Beast’ headed to Arsenal in a swap loan deal for the aforementioned Reyes, with the exciting and powerful Brazilian seemingly tailor-made for the Premier League.
Baptista enjoyed some fine moments – including a stunning four-goal haul in a League Cup clash at Liverpool – but often flattered to deceive, his brilliant best mixed with poor performances as he managed just three league goals for the campaign.
He returned to Real Madrid at the end of the season, having scored 10 goals in 35 appearances for the Gunners.
The Brazilian-born Croatia international forged a fine reputation at Dinamo Zagreb before joining Arsenal’s attacking ranks, though a serious injury wrecked what had been a promising start in the Premier League.
Despite competition for places from the likes of Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor, Eduardo scored 12 goals in all competitions before a horrific leg break ended his debut season in February, an injury that sidelined him for a year and saw him struggle to return to his best.
Eduardo had looked capable of being a key figure for Arsenal before his injury, his career with the Gunners a case of what might have been.
Arsene Wenger got plenty right during his time in charge of Arsenal, but it’s fair to say the 2011 summer transfer window was a mixed bag to say the least.
Whilst Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Per Mertesacker and Mikel Arteta forged fine careers with the club, the likes of Gervinho and Andre Santos were certainly signings to forget.
Perhaps the worst, however, was the acquisition of South Korean international Park Chi-young, who was bizarrely handed the number nine shirt before failing to make an impression.
He made just one goalless appearance for the Gunners in the Premier League before being forced out at the Emirates, joining Celta Vigo on loan.
The popular Podolski spent three seasons as an Arsenal player and delivered several memorable moments, the Germany international amongst the sweetest strikers of a ball the Premier League has seen.
He scored 16 goals in all competitions during his debut season despite operating largely from the left-flank and won the FA Cup in his second campaign, but fell out-of-favour following the arrival of Alexis Sanchez in 2014.
Seeking further opportunities, Podolski – who is Germany’s third-highest goalscorer with 49 goals in 130 caps – joined Inter Milan on a loan deal before signing for Galatasaray on a permanent basis, leaving Arsenal with a record of 31 goals in 82 appearances.
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) June 4, 2019
Lucas Perez arrived at Arsenal with a burgeoning reputation in 2016, but despite showing flashes of his talent failed to win the trust of Arsene Wenger at the Emirates.
The Spanish striker impressed in fleeting performances in cup competition, scoring a Champions League hat-trick against Basel – but failed to secure regular first-team football in the Premier League, netting just once in 11 league appearances during his debut campaign.
He was loaned out to former side Deportivo La Coruna, before failing to impress following a permanent move to West Ham.
The current holder of Arsenal’s number nine shirt and one of its finer wearers in the Premier League era, Alexandre Lacazette became the Gunners’ club-record signing when signing from Lyon three years ago.
The France international scored 17 goals in all competitions during a solid debut season, before bettering that tally the following year with 19 goals to be named as Arsenal’s Player of the Season.
Lacazette has formed a fine understanding with fellow forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and has been a popular figure amongst supporters, his work-ethic in hassling defenders endearing him to the Gunners’ faithful.
The 29-year-old has not quite scored as prolifically as his time in French football, but a return of 40 goals in 103 appearances is a respectable tally for the Arsenal number nine.